Monday, August 27, 2007

Fire Claims Lives of Two Firefighters at Ground Zero; Wall St. Journal Blames Community

Jenna Orkin*

The tragic fire at the former Deutsche Bank building in Lower Manhattan nine days ago which took the lives of two firefighters, Joseph Graffagnino, 33 and Robert Beddia, 53, and which has already spawned two criminal investigations, highlights problems about which the community of Lower Manhattan has been warning for years.

The company hired to perform the demolition of the building whose chief claim to fame, post-9/11, was that it had been contaminated with 150,000 times the normal levels of asbestos among other toxic substances, (which have since been reduced to a supposedly "safe" level) has "apparently never done any work like it" nor much of anything else since it was incorporated in 1983.

But while the John Galt Corporation has proven as mysterious as the eponymous character in the Ayn Rand novel, Atlas Shrugged - which opens with the question, "Who is John Galt?" - this elusiveness has allowed it to serve as an effective front for members of Safeway Environmental Corporation whose contract had been cancelled because of mob connections. One of Safeway's owners, Hank Greenberg, is a two-time felon who has been linked by the FBI to the Gambino crime family. So it was no great surprise, when a building in the process of demolition on Manhattan's Upper West Side collapsed ahead of time, trapping pedestrians including a seven-month-old baby, to learn that Safeway Environmental was in charge.

Another firm involved in the demolition of the former Deutsche Bank, United Research Services, told Minnesota transportation officials that it would be able to fix flaws in the Minneapolis bridge that collapsed this summer.

A third firm, Bovis Lend Lease "presided over" nine major safety incidents in the past five years apart from those at the former Deutsche Bank.

On top of this shaky foundation (not the sort one wants when demolishing the equivalent of a former Superfund site) the NYC Fire Department failed to check the standpipes at the former Deutsche Bank building every 15 days as required by law. Thus the firefighters who went in on Saturday were unaware of the broken standpipe in the basement which prevented water from reaching the two trapped members of their company.

Lest the reader assume that last Saturday's tragedy might result in at least a temporary show of caution, the following Thursday two more firefighters sustained serious head injuries from debris that fell from scaffolding at the site.

Shocking as all these events are, they are no surprise to the community of Lower Manhattan which initially brought to the public’s attention the shadowy connections of Safeway Environmental, protested the hiring of the equally dubious John Galt Corporation, highlighted unsafe conditions at the site such as windows falling out of the building and urged the City and the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, which owns the former Deutsche Bank building, to put in place emergency plans both for the work site as well as for the surrounding area.

Yet when the fire broke out, many residents received no warnings or instructions.

It is therefore particularly galling to read an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal as well as a letter in the New York Times which essentially blame Saturday's tragedy on the community's preciousness about any remaining environmental hazards in the building.

The Times letter, whose writer lives in Brooklyn, maintains that the community's concern for 'every speck of dust and every fiber of asbestos' has delayed the demolition process and that somehow that delay caused the fire. For surely if the building had already been demolished, it wouldn't have caught fire, now, would it? And if you could go back in time and stop your grandparents from meeting....

The Wall Street Journal article compares the community's arguments (which are supported by scientific expertise as well as legal precedent) to "the endless debate and litigation we've also layered into efforts to surveil and prosecute terrorists." (That pesky Constitution again.)

The arguments put forth in these two pieces attempt to pit the interests of firefighters and site workers against those of residents, office workers and students. In fact, these populations have worked together effectively for six years and have always been able to see through the divide-and-conquer tactics of their opponents. They understand that such finger-pointing is designed to divert attention from the corrupt entities whose purported job is to protect the public but whose true purpose is to uphold the economy (particularly their own piece of it.) In this latter endeavor those entities have indeed done a heckuva job.

*Jenna Orkin of the World Trade Center Environmental Organization, is one of twelve original plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit against the EPA.


Tyler Havlin said...

Energy futures rebound on refinery woes;_ylt=AvKJfhFOMb52gCQIKPljj3eAsnsA

Natural gas prices have fallen as inventories have risen to record levels. Moderate summer weather has also lessened demand for gas for cooling. Natural gas futures prices are lower than they were this time last year, meaning people who rely on natural gas for heating could face lower bills this winter.

On the other hand, heating oil inventory levels are below their year-ago levels, largely due to the refining industry's scramble this spring to produce enough gasoline to meet summer driving demand amid an unprecedented number of maintenance problems and glitches. Heating oil futures prices are higher than a year ago, meaning people could face higher heating oil bills this winter.

Pandabonium said...

For a demolition job, anyone familiar with Rand's books would have known to turn to "Howard Roark", not "John Galt". Not to make light of a serious crime, but if I don't laugh, I'll cry.

This illustrates that what we face is not some savvy political machine, but a bunch disappointingly ordinary thugs. That does not make them any less dangerous, but perhaps gives us a clue as to their weak points.

One might at least hope for a more worthy opponent to go the mat against.

Tyler Havlin said...

Cities block bulky homes on little lots

The outcry over huge new homes squeezed onto small lots has not let up. Residents are angry because expensive new homes raise property taxes. Neighbors resent the shadow they cast over their older, modest bungalows and ramblers. Preservationists say they destroy the historical character of neighborhoods.

Edina, Minn., a Minneapolis suburb filled with rambler-style homes from the 1940s and '50s, changed its zoning in June after a spate of teardowns in the past three years. The city requires larger setbacks on narrow lots to limit the size of new homes, says Cary Teague, planning director.

"We were seeing a lot of builders tearing homes down and bringing in fill to build up the house for a walkout basement," he says. "Now, it can't be raised more than 1 foot from the existing foundation."

Homes as small as 1,200 square feet are being replaced with homes of up to 6,000 square feet. One just sold for $1.8 million, Teague says.

Galiana said...

I think JG (or his creatrix) got back at the looters for naming their company after him. This proves that at least someone in the mafia can read. I'm surprised.

I feel sorry for the families of those firefighters though. You would think that the FDNY would have even more of a cause to check the standpipes in buildings slated for collapse, as fire doesn't seem to be all that uncommon an occurence in such buildings.

Pandabonium said...

Rawstory: rel="no follow">Study: US preparing 'massive' military attack against Iran

Before rejecting the story out of hand, have a read. The original 80 page paper is also on the website as a PDF.

Rod McClure JP said...

Interested in your sustainability site as I have been moved to become "verbal" as we see our resources devoured by corporate gluttony galloping away in an impossible insane race in the attempt to chase credit back to positive funds. Under the present system of business It simply cannot be done no matter how fast we go, credit is money which is never put into existence, we get a loan amd use our money which we recieve from some where else, by working for it, so as credits are exchanged for positive numbers the numbers remain held and the credit stays out there looking for its counter charge. (I get credit, buy a DVD player, go to work get the money pay off the loan, but the person I got the money from now has no money because he gave it to me for the work i did so he still has to go and get some money from where a loan maybe.)
Corporations such as Halliburton KBR suck in the cash and leave the debts/credit without the counter charge for the Mums and Dad's and families they are the ones who have always been the servants of finance, and these are the peoplke at the bottom of the chain the home owners and renters. Modern day slavery has its shackles and chains in credit funding.
Here is my blog from Australia where we are all about to play host to the APEC partners (Asian Pacafic Economic Cosortium) and your George Dubbya is on his way her to play golf we guess in readiness for the new American Services base in the Northern Territory where our Army is presently making way for by by CLEARING AWAY THE NATIVE ABORIGINALS OF THAT LAND, desecrating their sacred sites and setting up ther nuclear wast dump for the future, all run under a disguise as the APEC conference.
I look forward to your support and the sharing of our blogs to help sustain common sence, decency and respect for earth and mankind.

Jacob said...

At the risk of only fueling the fire I will post the following:

"$4.5 billion options bet on catastrophe within four weeks"

Found this link on Ran's blog.

"Anybody have a clue as to what these 'investors' are expecting?

The two sales are being referred to by market traders as "bin Laden trades" because only an event on the scale of 9-11 could make these short-sell options valuable.

There are 65,000 contracts @ $750.00 for the SPX 700 calls for open interest. That controls 6.5 million shares at $750 = $4.5 Billion. Not a single trade. But quite a bit of $$ on a contract that is 700 points away from current value. No one would buy that deep "in the money" calls. No reason to. So if they were sold looks like someone betting on massive dislocation. Lots of very strange option activity that I haven't seen before."

The thread on Latoc

It's especially with these kind of news that I miss FTW.

Rice Farmer said...

Here's a post at The Oil Drum which helps interpret pipeline news items.

How To Get A Pipeline Built

You have to wonder what kind of financial system the US will set up after the crash and martial law. Long ago I predicted that it would be something one might call "neo-feudalism," with the rich upper crust being the new land-holding aristocracy (they will own almost everything after the Little People go bust), and the Little People turned into serfs. Interestingly, I see the word "feudalism" being used more often these days.

Anonymous said...

Financial Times: Oil and gas spending hits record

"Worldwide spending by companies on oil and gas projects increased to a record high last year, but resulted in a minimal increase in global reserves, according to a new study released Wednesday."

Jacob said...


I feel dirty now.

I my hands I have a letter of credit from... Citibank.

I think i'll find and print some Citigroup/bank info for my boss ^^. But he will most likely dismiss it off-hand.

Rice Farmer said...

China's military development `not a threat,' defense chief tells Japan's-military.htm

The two countries' navies will soon begin reciprocal port calls.

Also, there is word that at the upcoming APEC meeting the US will again lean hard on Japan to extend legislation for Japanese naval support in the Indian Ocean. But there is still heavy opposition.

Alcuin Bramerton said...

Yes, there are big problems.

When the US Treasury Secretary, Henry Paulson, met with Chinese President Hu Jintao, at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on the 1st August 2007, there were planet-critical macroeconomic issues at stake. It was not a meeting of minds. It was a meeting of balls. Some of the world's largest hack attempts are operations by the Chinese government against the United States. The Chinese are better at computers than America. And China is better at money than America. China has real money. America has paper illusions of money.

Goldman Sachs, Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers are closing down bankrupt investment funds or trying to prop them up. The Federal Reserve Board props up all the worst speculators in the name of saving the American financial system, in a way that it would never prop up the failing American health system. American money paper is stacked up like a house of cards. The house of cards, Enron-style, Arthur Andersen-style, is dependent upon the safety of underlying assets which are themselves jerry-built on ball bearings. The accountants and risk managers know this, but they look the other way to save their paycheques.

The American banks' derivatives books are like mountain climbers tethered together on the side of a dangerous mountain in a blizzard. One goes, they all go. And the mountain itself is fantasy collateral, expediently raised by creative accounting.

America owns nothing. China owns America. That, thanks to the Bush-Cheney junta, is the realpolitik of the 21st century, post-911. Or, at least, that seems to be the buzz, uttered sotto voce, around the strangely quiet coffee shops of Wall Street at the moment.

The problem is, China knows all this. And America knows that China knows. So the NESARA move to a benevolent global banking system is a problem for America. America does not want a benevolent global banking system. America wants an American global banking system. China is using NESARA to discipline America.

linda ush said...

Hi everyone,

i am a resident of calif and travelled to cheyenne. i stayed at a local Mariott with free internet access.

amusingly, is banned from view as being potentially malicious, like a porn sight would be?

Rice Farmer said...

I'm translating a presentation on the management of expressways in Japan. All I can say is: "What a lot of oil consumption!" Not just the vehicles on the road, because construction and maintenance too require lots and lots of oil! It's hard to imagine just how much until you actually see it all laid out in front of you. All that land ruined by pavement which will be in use how many more years?

Chris XVX said...

Looks like we can expect catastrophes any day now. We already know that the second great depression is under way. I agree w/Jacob, this is when I miss FTW the most...

Hope everyone is building their lifeboats(or already have them).